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Workplace and health: a survey of classical orchestral musicians in the United Kingdom and Germany

Beatrice S. Harper
From: Medical Problems of Performing Artists: Volume 17 Number 2: Page 83 (June 2002)

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Abstract: This article presents the results of a survey that was carried out among UK and German professional classical musicians between November 2000 and April 2001. The UK Musicians' Union and the German musicians' union, the Deutsche Orchester Vereinigung (DOV), assisted greatly with the duplication and distribution of the questionnaires. Selected results have been disseminated to the respondents via the UK Musicians' Union journal, Musician. A full report will appear in Cultural Trends, to be published in 2002 by the Policy Studies Institute, London. The survey covered many aspects of musicians' perceptions of occupational health and safety, the provision of appropriate information, their general working conditions, and their health. One of the main aims was to bring to the forefront a discussion of musicians' working conditions and to raise awareness of the range of problems that exist. Key findings identify areas of concern to the respondents, in particular, regarding the environmental conditions of their workplaces. Additionally, findings indicate the use and effectiveness of the measures used by musicians to ameliorate a range of occupational hazards. This article also reports the respondents' hearing problems, and which medical and alternative practitioners the sample consulted in cases of work-related ill health. The contrasting structure of the profession determined the choice of the United Kingdom and Germany for this study. The UK classical music workforce is predominantly freelance, whereas in Germany there are relatively few freelance musicians, and most orchestral musicians have the status of local government employees. One of the aims of the survey was to elicit information that might indicate whether such different conditions of employment affect the working lives of musicians. This article is organized in two parts. The first part places this survey in context and discusses the particular range of health problems highlighted by the respondents. The second part presents the survey and its findings.

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